Warding off gum disease can add 13 years to our lives, report Harvard University researchers. That’s because the condition leads to inflammation that triggers disease. But these tricks will keep your gums and you healthy.
Savor a cheese snack
Enjoying 2 oz. of dairy each day can cut your risk of periodontal disease in half, according to Japanese research. “Cheese and yogurt contain a natural source of probiotics, or ‘healthy bacteria,’ and the more we overwhelm the mouth with good bacteria, the less opportunity we give to the bad bacteria to overgrow,” explains periodontist Sharona Dayan, DDS, DMSc, president of Aurora Periodontal Care. Plus, dairy is packed with enamel-fortifying calcium and casein, a naturally occurring protein that neutralizes acids that harm teeth and gums.
Give brushing a ‘dry run’
Two minutes spent pre-brushing teeth with a dry toothbrush cuts plaque build-up by 58 percent, according to European research. “Toothpaste’s minty taste and foamy feel can give a false sense of clean, but when you pre-brush without toothpaste, you can focus more on the task of removing plaque,” says New York City–based dentist Inna Chern, DDS. In fact, study authors found that dry brushing boosted folks’ ability to home in on the sticky bacterial biofilm lurking along the gum line. Following dry brushing with a standard toothbrushing session will better drive your toothpaste’s fluoride deep into teeth to help remineralize weakened enamel.
Scrape your tongue
A single sweep with a tongue scraper lifts away 75 percent of the sticky sulfur compounds responsible for gum disease, according to Brazilian research. “Our tongue’s texture allows bacteria responsible for gum disease to imbed in nooks and crannies,” explains Sonya Krasilnikov, DDS, co-founder of Dental House. “Reducing this bacterial load improves health.” Try: Dr. Tung’s Tongue Cleaner ($7.77, Amazon).
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.